Live updates | Ukraine preparing 41 Russian war crimes cases
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s prosecutor general said Friday that her office was readying 41 war crimes cases against Russian soldiers.
“We have 41 suspects in cases with which we will be ready to go to court. All of them concern Article 438 of the (Ukrainian) criminal code on war crimes, but different types of war crimes. There is the bombing of civilian infrastructure, the killing of civilians, rape and looting,” Iryna Venediktova said in a live briefing on Ukrainian TV on Friday evening.
It was not immediately clear how many of the suspects would be tried in absentia.
Friday marked the first war crime prosecution of a member of the Russian military in Kyiv, as a 21-year-old Russian soldier went on trial for the killing of an unarmed Ukrainian civilian in the early days of the war.
Venediktova said that two more of the suspects, who are physically in Ukraine, are likely to face preliminary hearings next week.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— Hope, horror as Ukrainian war refugees exceed 6 million
— Russian soldier on trial in first Ukraine war-crimes case
— Facility for disabled on Ukraine front line mulls evacuation
— Finland’s leaders in favor of applying for NATO membership
— ‘This tears my soul apart’: A Ukrainian boy and a killing
Follow all AP stories on Russia’s war on Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine — One civilian was killed and twelve more people were injured in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region as a result of Russian shelling, the regional governor said Friday.
The Donetsk region, one of two that make up the Donbas, has seen some of the war’s fiercest fighting in recent weeks, as Moscow mounts an offensive to capture Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.
“On May 13, the Russians killed one more civilian of Donbas — in (the city of) Avdiivka. 12 more people were injured today as a result of Russian shelling,” Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram.
KYIV, Ukraine — The deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, the last Ukrainian army unit holding out in the ruined port of Mariupol, said on Friday that his troops will resist Moscow’s forces “as long as they can,” despite shortages of ammunition, food, water and medicine.
Speaking during an online session of the Kyiv Security Forum, Sviatoslav Palamar said Russian forces continued to storm the Azovstal steelworks, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol, where his forces are hunkered down.
“We continue to resist and follow the order of our senior political leaders to hold the defense. We are holding the defense and continue fighting despite everything,” he said.
Speaking to a panel including U.S. generals Philip M. Breedlove and Wesley K. Clark, Palamar appealed to the U.S. to help evacuate around 600 wounded soldiers from the Azovstal plant, and help extract the rest of the Ukrainian force.
Members of the Azov Regiment holed up at the plant have repeatedly refused to surrender to Moscow, citing fears of being killed or tortured.
KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian army said in its daily operational statement Friday that the Russian army continued its strategic offensive in the country’s east, attacking new towns and villages.
Russian troops were engaging their Ukrainian opponents with live fire near the Rubezhnoye settlement, near the strategic city of Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s Donbas, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said in a Facebook post published on its official profile.
Analysts say that fighting in the Sevedononetsk area is critical to securing control over the Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, which is made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
On Friday, Russian troops unsuccessfully stormed the towns of Zolote and Kamyshevakha, the Ukrainian military said.
It added that Moscow’s forces were firing artillery at the strategically important settlements of Kamenka and Novoselivka. The military also said that Russia continued shelling Ukrainian positions in Mariupol, near the Azovstal steel plant where Kyiv’s troops continue to hold out.
The accuracy of these claims could not be immediately verified.
UNITED NATIONS — The United States is again accusing Russia of using the U.N. Security Council to spout disinformation and conspiracy theories about biological weapons in Ukraine to distract from its brutal war against its smaller neighbor.
U.S. deputy ambassador Richard Mills called the Russian claims of alleged U.S. involvement in a biological weapons program “categorically false and ludicrous.”
He warned the council Friday that Moscow’s actions follow a pattern of accusing others of violations it has perpetrated or intends to perpetrate, adding that they need to be watched closely “for the possibility of a false flag chemical or biological attack by Russia’s forces.”
U.N. deputy disarmament chief Thomas Markram reiterated to the council what his boss said at council meetings on March 11 and March 18 on similar Russian allegations: The United Nations is not aware of any biological weapons program in Ukraine.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said at the opening that he called for a third council meeting because his government continues to receive “very worrying documentary evidence” that the U.S. defense department is directly involved in carrying out “dangerous biological projects that look like a secret biological military program” in Ukraine.
After the 15 council members spoke, all calling for an end to the war and Western nations strongly backing the U.S. position, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky asked for the floor, accusing the United States of not providing any information about the aims of its biological activities in Ukraine.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s defense minister admitted Friday that there was no swift end to the war with Russia in sight.
Writing on social media, Oleksii Reznikov said that Western weapons would take some time to begin turning the tide in Ukraine’s favor.
“We are entering a new — long-term — phase of the war,” Reznikov said in a Facebook post. “Extremely difficult weeks await us. How many there will be — no one can say for sure.”
He added that Russia was unable to sweep across Ukraine and capture its capital, and is now “forced to reduce the scale of its targets down to the operational-tactical level.”
“We are witnessing a strategic turning point in favor of Ukraine. This process will last for some time,” he said.
Reznikov said Ukraine is “slowly, but nevertheless” receiving heavy weapons transfers from Western partners. Kyiv expects more weapons following the meeting of the defense chiefs of more than 40 countries at the American Ramstein base in Germany last month, which Reznikov referred to as “a historic meeting.”
More than 1,500 Ukrainian troops are already being trained in the use of Western equipment, or set to begin training in the coming days.
ROME — Italy will hold a ministerial level meeting next month involving fellow Mediterranean countries in an effort to head off a food crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told reporters in Germany on Friday on the sidelines of a G-7 foreign ministers’ meeting that next month’s gathering will deal with how to diversify food sources to “head off a food crisis that can lead to famines and can lead to ever more massive migratory flows.’’
Di Maio didn’t announce a date but said that the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization would be involved in the initiative.
Italy is “very worried about what is happening in the Mediterranean with respect to, for example, the grain crisis,” Di Maio said.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of grains, including to Eritrea and northern Africa. Ukrainian officials have said there are tons of grain in silos that normally would be exported on vessels in the Black Sea but that Russian attacks on southern Ukraine have made shipments by that route impossible.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoygu on Friday, marking the highest level American contact since the war began in late February.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Austin “urged an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication.” Kirby provided no other details of the call.
Over the past several months, Pentagon officials have repeatedly said that Russian leaders declined to take calls from Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This is the first conversation between Austin and Shoygu since February 18, a week before the war started.
U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke with General Nikolay Patrushev, Secretary of the Russian Security Council, in mid-March. The White House said at the time that Sullivan reiterated America’s “firm and clear opposition to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine.”
BERLIN — Natural gas prices rose Friday after Russian state-owned exporter Gazprom said it would no longer send supplies to Europe via a pipeline in Poland, citing new sanctions that Moscow imposed on European energy companies. The move doesn’t immediately block large amounts of natural gas to Europe but intensifies fears that the war in Ukraine will lead to wide-ranging cutoffs.
Gazprom said Thursday that it would ban the use of the Yamal pipeline that reaches Germany through Poland. While that cuts off a supply route to Europe, the pipeline’s entry point to Germany has not been used in recent months. Plus, Gazprom has already cut off gas to Poland for refusing to meet Moscow’s demand to make payments in rubles.
“A ban is in place on making transactions with and payments to persons under sanctions. In particular, for Gazprom, this means a ban on the use of a gas pipeline owned by (the Polish company) EuRoPol GAZ to transport Russian gas through Poland,” Gazprom representative Sergey Kupriyanov wrote in a Telegram post.
The fear is that gas disputes and cutoffs will keep escalating amid the war in Ukraine. Last month, Gazprom said it had completely cut off natural gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria over the rubles dispute.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s pipeline operator shut down a pipeline that carries gas from Russia to Europe, saying Russian forces were interfering with a compressor station in Russian-held territory and diverting gas. It asked Gazprom to move gas through another pipeline, which the company said it could not do. By itself, the shutdown was not expected to cut off major amounts of gas.
Energy tensions ramped up when Russia imposed sanctions Wednesday on Gazprom Germania, a subsidiary of the Russian supplier that the German government took control of in April.
KYIV, Ukraine — A 21-year-old Russian soldier went on trial Friday in Kyiv for the killing of an unarmed Ukrainian civilian, marking the first war crime prosecution of a member of the Russian military from 11 weeks of bloodshed in Ukraine.
The soldier, a captured member of a tank unit, is accused of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka during the first days of the war.
Scores of journalists and cameras packed inside a small courtroom at the Solomyanskyy district court in Ukraine’s capital, where the suspect, Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, sat in a glassed-off area wearing a blue and grey hoodie, sweatpants and a shaved head.
He faces up to life in prison under a section of the Ukrainian criminal code that addresses the laws and customs of war. Ukraine’s top prosecutor, with help from foreign experts, is investigating allegations that Russian troops violated Ukrainian and international law by killing, torturing and abusing possibly thousands of Ukrainian civilians.
Friday’s hearing in Shyshimarin’s case was brief. A judge asked him to provide his name, address, marital status and other identifying details. He also was asked whether he understood his rights, quietly replying “yes,” and if wanted a jury trial, which he declined.
The judges and lawyers discussed procedural matters before the judges left the courtroom and then returned to say the case would continue on May 18.
VIENNA — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone, the first time the two have spoken since late March.
The 75-minute call on Friday “focused on the ongoing war in Ukraine and efforts to end it,” according to German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit.
Scholz urged Putin to reach a ceasefire agreement with Ukraine as soon as possible and to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground, he said
The German leader also “clearly rejected the (Kremlin) accusation that Nazism was widespread in Ukraine,” according to Hebestreit.
When the two leaders spoke about the global food situation, Scholz “reminded (Putin) that Russia has a special responsibility” with regard to the issue as a major world supplier, Hebestreit said in a statement.
ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that his country is “not favorable” toward Finland and Sweden joining NATO, indicating Turkey could use its membership in the Western military alliance to veto moves to admit the two countries.
The Turkish leader explained his opposition by citing Sweden and other Scandinavian countries’ alleged support for Kurdish militants and others whom Turkey considers to be terrorists.
He said he also did not want to repeat Turkey’s past “mistake” from when it agreed to readmit Greece into NATO’s military wing in 1980. He claimed the action had allowed Greece “to take an attitude against Turkey” with NATO’s backing.
Erdogan did not say outright that he would block any accession attempts by the two Nordic nations. However, NATO makes all its decisions by consensus, meaning that each of the 30 member countries has a potential veto over who can join.
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine prompted Finland and Sweden to reconsider their traditions of military nonalignment. Public opinion in the two countries quickly started to shift toward favoring NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Should the two countries proceed on that path, it would represent a blow to Russia since President Vladimir Putin cited NATO’s expansion near Russian territory as one of his justifications for invading Ukraine.
WEISSENHAUS, Germany — Ukraine’s foreign minister says his country remains willing to engage in diplomatic talks with Russia to unblock grain supplies and achieve a political solution to the war.
But Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says his country won’t accept ultimatums from Moscow.
Kuleba told reporters in Germany on the sidelines of a meeting Friday of top diplomats from the Group of Seven major economies that Kyiv has received “no positive feedback” from Russia. He said the Kremlin “prefers wars to talks.”
“We are ready to talk, but we are ready for a meaningful conversation based on mutual respect, not on the Russian ultimatums thrown on the table,” he said.
Kuleba said talks with his counterparts from the G-7 had been “helpful, fruitful, very honest and results-oriented,” but he urged countries to provide Ukraine with more weapons and put further pressure on Russia’s economy.
Kuleba said he hoped the European Union would agree on a Russian oil embargo next week. He urged allies to follow Canada’s lead in seizing Russian sovereign assets to pay for rebuilding Ukraine.
LONDON — Britain has added Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ex-wife and his alleged girlfriend to its sanctions list over the invasion of Ukraine.
The British government says its latest asset freezes and travel bans target the “shady network” of friends and allies who “owe Putin their wealth and power, and in turn support Putin and his war machine.”
The sanctioned individuals include Putin’s ex-wife Lyudmila Ocheretnaya; former Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who is “alleged to have a close personal relationship with Putin,” according to the government; and several businessmen who are cousins of the Russian president.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the United Kingdom is “exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle.”
Britain says it has sanctioned more than 1,000 individuals and 100 entities since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
HELSINKI — A Swedish government report says the Nordic country can expect to be the target of Russian cyberattacks and other aggressive measures if it opts to join NATO.
The Swedish government’s security policy analysis, which will be used as a basis for a decision on NATO membership by Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson’s Cabinet later this month, was presented in parliament Friday.
While it sees obvious security advantages in NATO membership, it also lists numerous operations likely to be undertaken by Russia if Sweden joins the alliance.
Those include different kinds of hybrid attacks, violations of Swedish airspace or waters, and threats to increase and even possibly use nuclear weapons in the Baltic Sea region.
The report states that Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine limits the possibilities for attacks on other countries but notes that Russia still has the capacity for a limited number of hostile measures against countries like Sweden.
WEISSENHAUS, Germany — The European Union is planning to give Ukraine almost 500 million euros ($520 million) to buy heavy weapons that will help fend off Russia’s invasion.
The bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell announced the funds at a gathering of top diplomats from the Group of Seven wealthy nations Friday.
But EU diplomats cautioned that any disbursement still requires ratification by all member states. Some countries are expressing misgivings, and approval is unlikely before next week.
Borrell said the money would be earmarked for the purchase of heavy weapons, taking the bloc’s total financial support for Ukraine to 2 billion euros (more than $2 billion) for the purchase of lethal and non-lethal support.
EU Council president Charles Michel, who represents the EU’s 27 governments in Brussels, threw his “full support” behind the plan. “Time is of the essence,” Michel wrote in a message posted on Twitter.
Borrell also expressed hope of soon getting the bloc’s member states to agree an oil embargo against Russia, despite the misgivings of some countries.
The G-7 meeting is also being attended by Germany, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the United States. Ukraine and neighboring Moldova have been invited as guests.
LONDON — British military officials say the heavy losses suffered recently by a column of Russian armor demonstrate the pressure Moscow’s commanders are under to make progress in eastern Ukraine.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense on Friday confirmed news reports that Ukrainian forces prevented the Russian column from crossing the Siverskyi Donets river, west of Severodonetsk, on a pontoon bridge.
Russia lost “significant” elements of at least one battalion tactical group, as well as equipment used to quickly deploy the floating bridge, the ministry said.
“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.
The Ministry said Russia has failed to make any significant advances, despite concentrating forces in the Luhansk and Donbas regions of eastern Ukraine after withdrawing troops from other areas.